Learning the Open Position Notes | Hub Guitar

Learning the Open Position Notes

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Learn the Open Position Notes Hi, I'm Grey and this is Hub Guitar. We're going to learn the notes in the open position of the guitar. The open position includes the open strings, EADGbe, as well as the fretted notes up to fret III or so. Rather than try to memorize all of the notes, we're going to apply the knowledge we've learned so far to learn to name the notes quickly. It's better to know the method of solving the problem -- naming notes -- than it is to memorize the solution to a problem -- the name of a particular note. In a previous lesson we talked about how to play the C major scale up and down a string. If you haven't done that yet, you may want to go back and learn. It only takes a minute. Now we're going to apply that knowledge to the open string in general. Starting with each open string, we're going to play that string. And we're going to find the other notes we can play on that string, that fall within the C major scale. When the next note can also be played by an open string, we're going to straight to that open string. Doing this, we can play the C major scale using only the open string and three frets. Normally a scale will start with the note that it's named for. C major normally starts with the note C. But because of the way the guitar works, I'm going to include any note belonging to C major--as long as it can be played in this position. [demonstration] Learning the notes on the guitar is an important step to mastering the instrument, and it's one that many players never bother to undertake. My hope is that you will first learn several methods to quickly figure out the names of certain notes. And by learning to think faster and faster, eventually you will be able to put this knowledge to work, naming the notes you need as you play them. And over time, that will lead to memorization.

Learning the Open Position Notes

Why Learn the Notes?

Learning the names of the notes on the guitar is essential for developing a deep understanding of the guitar fretboard. The study of chords, scales and arpeggios will all but require it.

Knowing the names of the notes is also crucial for understanding musical concepts generally, as well as for reading music.

One of your first goals should be to learn the names of the natural (C Major) notes in the open position.

Learning these notes will help you to see and understand more clearly the many chords constructed from the C major scale.

Learning concepts versus memorizing by rote

This exercise will come much easier if you learn the underlying principles themselves, and use them as a tool to solve problems, rather than if you merely memorize the notes.

Prerequisite Knowledge

To begin this lesson, you must at minimum possess the following knowledge:

  • Understanding of the C Major Scale notes, and the pattern of steps they follow
  • Understand the 7 notes in the musical alphabet and the 12 notes in the chromatic scale.
  • Know the names of the open strings.


Starting from the low (thick) E string: for each string, think about how to climb up the notes of the C major scale. For instance, on the E string you would play E, F, and G.

When the next note in the scale is the same as the next open string, play the open string and continue from that open string.

For example, after playing E, F and G on the lowest string, you would not play A on that string because A can also be played on the open string. So you would play A on the 5th string and continue to B and C on that string, and so forth.


If you follow the above procedure to construct the scale, the results will appear as below.

Important: merely memorizing the notes, while useful, is not enough. Knowing the method by which the notes can be named and identified is key to understanding the fretboard.

Learning the C major notes (or white piano keys) in the guitar open position.

Key Tasks

  • Recite the names of the notes as you play up (and down!) the C major scale in open position.
  • Recite the names of the notes horizontally across each fret: for example, the first fret is F, A♯, D♯, G♯, C, F. Repeat for other frets.
  • For each note in the C major scale, play it in every location of the scale. For instance, for “F”, play all three of the F’s that appear in the scale, and repeat for the rest of the notes.
As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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